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Judge to NSA: No, you cannot collect bulk phone records

National Security Agency building in Fort Meade, Md.
AP
National Security Agency building in Fort Meade, Md.

A federal judge says the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. The judge put his decision on hold pending a nearly certain government appeal.

He ruled that the program is likely unlikely, raising "serious doubts'' about the value of the NSA's so-called metadata counterterrorism program.

U.S.District Court Judge Richard Leon has granted a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, concluding they were likely to prevail in their constitutional challenge. Leon ruled Monday that the two men are likely to be able to show that their privacy interests outweigh the government's interest in collecting the data. Leon says that means that massive collection program is an unreasonable search under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

(Read more: Don't expect big things from Washington in 2014)

The collection program was disclosed by former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden, provoking a heated debate over civil liberties.

—AP with Reuters

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